So… how about this realignment thing?
I know I write the fantasy hockey column at Kukla’s Korner, but chances are at this moment you’re paying more attention to realignment and how it affects your favorite team than your fantasy team. There are so many issues at play here: guaranteed home-and-home matchups with all teams; the new playoff format; lessened travel for Western Conference teams; which of Detroit, Nashville, or Columbus should move east; the yet-to-be-determined permanent home of the Phoenix Coyotes; and teams that should be contracted (a topic hardcore long-time fans love to bring up whenever relocation is discussed).
My take on realignment: Assuming that the Coyotes stay where they are next season, the new-look NHL will hold 16 teams in the West and 14 teams in the East. If you’re a fan of a Western Conference team (like me), then you may have discovered that it will now be more difficult for your team to make the playoffs. Is this another perceived slight to the west from the major eastern markets, which no doubt have a lot of pull in the NHL? Or does the new format allow for some flexibility, in case the Coyotes move to an eastern market such as Quebec City?
One more thing: Let’s bring back the Smythe, Norris, Patrick, and Adams Divisions. This realignment lends itself so well to the division names and rivalries that were prevalent back in the 1980s. I believe that hockey needs to celebrate its tradition, no matter how quirky fans from other sports think it is.
Enough realignment gab – let’s look toward the Pick Six for Tuesday, which features 20 teams in action.
Jarome Iginla, RW, CGY – start
If Bobby Ryan’s name has been discussed in trade rumors more than anyone, then Iginla’s name has to be a not-that-close second. So are the rumors affecting Iggy’s game? Maybe not, but 15 points (7g, 8a) and a (-8) in 26 games are less than what fantasy owners were expecting. Iginla is second on the Flames with 70 shots on goal, and he should have no problem adding to that total against a Carolina team that gives up more shots on goal than anyone. It will be interesting to see how Iggy’s fantasy value is affected should the Flames wise up and commence the rebuilding effort by trading their captain.
Matt Moulson, LW, NYI – start
Moulson was expected to be a one-year fluke – no, a two-year fluke – no, wait, it’s coming up to three years of solid fantasy contributions. Thanks to a four-goal effort on Saturday, Moulson Golden is up to 13 goals on the year – a pace that makes a third consecutive 30-goal season seem well within reach. Sure, there’s the plus/minus drag from playing with the Isles, but Moulson has never been more than a (-10) during his three seasons with the Isles. Just don’t expect him to help much in assists, as he has just six helpers this season with only 22 last season.
Milan Hejduk, RW, COL – start
If nothing else, start Hejduk because he is a noted Canuck killer (Andrew Brunette and Alex Steen are two others who seem to have their way with my favorite team, in case you’re taking note). This goes back a long way, but Hejduk has 36 goals and 66 points in 73 lifetime games against the Canucks. More recently, Hejduk scored six points (1g, 5a) in five games against Vancouver last season.
Ryan O’Reilly, C, COL – add/start
With all the young guns in Colorado right now, it may come as a surprise that O’Reilly is leading the team in scoring (21 points in 27 games). The Avs have won three in a row – all on the road – and O’Reilly has scored four goals with a +7 during that span. The Canucks won’t be an easy test for the Avs on Tuesday, but you have to roll with the hot hand here and even hope that he proves worthy enough to be a season-long pickup.
Cal Clutterbuck, RW, MIN – add/start
If your league counts hits, “Buttercup” is a must-own. Clutterbuck led the NHL by dishing out 336 hits last season, and he is in second this season with 96 hits. It’s always nice when a one-category wonder also helps in other categories, as demonstrated by his six goals and ten points over his last 11 games. The Wild are inexplicably at the top of the NHL standings, which has to be in no small part to the contributions of this power forward.
Dan Boyle, D, SJ – bench
I wouldn’t normally bench Boyle, but a couple things have me concerned. One, he plays against the stingy hot Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. Second, Boyle has no points in his last nine games. Brent Burns’ presence could be a factor, but perhaps so is age (35). I have a lot invested in Boyle in a money keeper league, so I’m hoping this is not the beginning of the inevitable age decline. Boyle should come around at some point, but his overall fantasy value doesn’t appear to be what it used to be.
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